Images of a paltry crowd that listened to President Robert Mugabe speak in Bindura last Friday were worth a thousand words.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
An isolated Mugabe could only attract 5 000 Zanu PF supporters in the heart of what he says is his party’s stronghold — Mashonaland Central.
Even Zanu PF’s reliable propagandists could not spin the ruling party out of the embarrassment as it was clear that the poor crowds were not synonymous with Mugabe’s rallies.
Mugabe’s rallies are usually a show of force as the ruling party often deploys its storm troopers — the war veterans — to cajole even non-Zanu PF supporters to attend.
Thousands are often bused to the rallies with the help of the former liberation war fighters, whose mobilisation capacity saw Mugabe survive tight elections since the turn of the millennium.
Mugabe admitted at the rally that his relationship with the former fighters had broken down as they were demanding that he should step down.
However, he believes those calling for his retirement have gone rogue, setting the stage for a bruising fight that could drive more of Zanu PF old guard out of the party following the purges that began in 2014.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said it had become too obvious that Mugabe and war veterans had divergent views on his succession.
“War veterans and Mugabe are looking at the same problem from two different angles and this has now caused a tiff, which has edged Zanu PF to implosion,” he said.
“The war veterans are seeing a problem, which their boss or patron is not seeing. On the other hand the war veterans are working towards the resolution of the succession problem because they believe that it has to be solved.
“Mugabe, however, is not seeing the succession problem and has been on the ‘if there is no problem then nothing has to be fixed’ mantra.”
Masunungure said Mugabe’s loyalists now viewed war veterans as successionists bent on pushing the Zanu PF leader out of power and replacing him with his deputy.
“It is because of that reason that war veterans and Mugabe are now walking on parallel paths, perhaps to meet each other at the meeting which President Mugabe has proposed for next month,” he said.
Veteran political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe had realised that Zanu PF was imploding, hence his initiative to meet the former liberation fighters.
“This has confirmed the war veterans as the mobilising factor in Zanu PF and that the issue has gone beyond war veterans to include the military and causing an implosion in the party,” he said.
“In 2014 Mugabe fired 50% of the party and now he has fired another 25%, if anything ‘Mugabe PF’ is now the minority in Zanu PF.”
Mandaza said the inclusion of serving securocrats in the proposed meeting was confirmation that the security sector was dabbling in partisan politics.
Masunungure said the military had demonstrated that they were fighting in the war veterans’ corner, but Mugabe would still use the commanders to intimidate the former liberation war fighters.
“The service chiefs may have been invited to have an intimidatory effect on the war veterans, but on the other hand they have shown that they are sympathetic to the war veterans,” he said.
“You would remember that they [the military] offered them [war veterans] a place to meet at the Presidential Guard barracks and Mugabe has in the past warned the military against dabbling in politics on behalf of Mnangagwa.”
War veterans say Mugabe is no longer in control of Zanu PF as they accuse a faction linked to his wife Grace of trying to position itself to take over power once the veteran ruler leaves the scene.
G40 has been involved in a bruising fight with Mnangagwa’s faction, which counts war veterans and the security establishment as its major power base.
Grace’s faction appears to have an upper hand against the Mnangagwa group as it has Mugabe’s ear.